Effect of LDPE microplastics on chemical properties and microbial communities in soil

Kumuduni Niroshika Palansooriya, Liang Shi, Binoy Sarkar, Sanjai J Parikh, Mee Kyung Sang, Sang Ryong Lee, Yong Sik Ok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The accumulation of plastics in the soil ecosystem poses an increasing environmental concern worldwide. However, little is known about the effect of plastic concentrations on soil properties and soil biota. In this study, we investigated the effect of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) microplastics (MPs) on the chemical and microbial properties of agricultural soil using a set of microcosm experiments. The soil was incubated for 100 days with LDPE at concentrations of 0%, 0.1%, 1%, 3%, 5%, and 7% at 25°C with 70% water-holding capacity. Along with soil chemical analysis, we conducted an analysis of soil microbial properties on the first day and again after 100 days of incubation. LDPE concentrations of ≥1% significantly (p <.05) decreased the pH but increased the electrical conductivity of the soil in comparison with the control (0% LDPE at 100 days). Increasing the LDPE concentration did not affect the soil exchangeable cation content or the available Pb concentration. Firmicutes were the most abundant phyla in the soil on the first day, whereas Proteobacteria, Firmicutes and Actinobacteria became dominant in all treatments after 100 days. An increasing LDPE concentration increased the abundance of Actinobacteria and decreased Proteobacteria. Principal component analysis demonstrated that only 7% LDPE was positively correlated with Actinobacteria, indicating that higher concentrations of LDPE contributed to the growth of this phylum. The findings of this study imply that MP contamination could affect soil chemical properties and microbial activity and that these effects primarily depend on MP concentrations in soil.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1481-1492
Number of pages12
JournalSoil Use and Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jul


  • Actinobacteria
  • heavy metals
  • low-density polyethylene
  • microbial community
  • microplastics
  • soil quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Soil Science
  • Pollution


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